IRVING, Texas – Having dissected all the tape ahead of this Week 1 matchup, these are the two biggest factors I can determine.
Here are the two biggest keys to this game – one for the Cowboys and one for the 49ers. Cowboys win if:
A common theme for the Cowboys defense in the preseason was their inability to really shut down an opponent until their backs were against the wall in the red zone. There were major issues with gap control in the running game and untimely penalties in the secondary that allowed drives to continue.
Teams were able to advance the ball without much resistance, but defensively, scheme-wise things all seemed to come together for the Cowboys once the offense crossed into the red zone. The fits across the front were better and that coverage that struggled in the open field was able to tighten down and defend the ball.
There is no question in my mind that this 49ers offense will be able to move the ball on this Cowboys defense because of the weapons like Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore. On the flip side, the 49ers could very well have the same issues dealing with all the Cowboys offensive weapons.
If the Cowboys are going to win this game it will fall on the shoulders of this defense and how they are able to hold this 49ers offense in check by making them attempt field goals and not allowing them to finish drives with touchdowns.
49ers win if:
As a team, the San Francisco 49ers are one of the most physical in the NFL. When they have all hands on deck defensively, they can create all kinds of problems for offenses dealing with that power. If there is an area that the Cowboys would like to believe is the strength of their team it is with their offensive line.
Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick are two cornerstones types of player, and add rookie Zack Martin to the mix, it is a group that has a [embedded_ad]
tremendous future together. In studying the 49ers and the style they play, they want to control the front with their three down players and allow these talented linebackers to make plays.
In this matchup, the 49ers are going to have to replace some key pieces in this group due to suspension and injury. They'll be will be without Glenn Dorsey, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith when they face the Cowboys on Sunday. Michael Wilhoite, Dan Skuta and Quinton Dial will be called on to fill those spots. In reading the comments of 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, I do not expect him to adjust how he calls his defense in this game even with the key players being out.
If Fangio is correct and doesn't have to make major adjustments to account for those players and can still control this Cowboys offensive line, then there is an outstanding chance for them to win this game.
But Rod Marinelli and this defensive staff would gladly trade defensive stops in the red zone over being one of the top units in the league in regards to yards allowed per game.